If there’s any one thing that watching Moto GP video can’t prepare you for, it’s the unimaginable noise made by the bikes – let alone a bunch of them together. Multiply that by a lot in a venue like the Indianapolis Speedway where the sound echoes between metal grandstands, and it’s literally painful.
The 12th of 18 races on the Moto GP calendar saw Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner extend his series lead to a healthy 44 points, and he made it look easy despite incessant whining all weekend about how bad the track was and how hard he had to work. In the event, he got a decent start, followed his fast-starting team-mate Dani Pedrosa for seven laps, then slipped by easily and went on to a comfortable unchallenged win.
Then he spent half the press conference complaining about how bad the traction was. Really, the guy should be awarded a world championship for whining to complement what will probably be his second Moto GP title this year.
Pedrosa maintained a comfortable second after Stoner passed him, saying later he was pleased with the race and felt much better as his recuperation from shoulder injuries continues.
Third was under contention for the first half of the race, but eventually went to a superbly in-form Ben Spies on his factory Yamaha. Spies had a decent start from the second spot on the grid, but got squeezed out in a traffic jam at the first corner and on the way out of the very tight complex of turns 2-4 collided with the third Repsol Honda of Andrea Dovizioso and nearly crashed, dropping to ninth. “I took a breath, sort of re-grouped, forgot the race game plan and just started chasing people down. It was fun.”
By half-distance he was fourth, chasing his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, the defending world champion. Shortly after catching up he whacked Lorenzo with a perfectly-executed draft pass on the front straight, surprising his team-mate and letting Spies get far enough ahead that the Spaniard could not counter-attack. From there the Texan simply stretched out the gap, but said after the race he wasn’t trying to catch Pedrosa for third – “too far behind” – but just maintain his podium spot.
Farther behind there were a considerable number of surprises, so although the race itself was rather processional there were some interesting episodes to watch. It was an utterly disastrous weekend for Ducati – Randy de Puniet in eighth the highest of the Italian machines. Valentino Rossi crashed his primary bike in qualifying and could only manage a lowly 14th starting spot. From there he quickly got up as high as 10th, but ran off twice at the fast Turn 1 (coming off the long front straight where Stoner was timed at more than 320 km/h (200 mph) when the bike wouldn’t turn, or he felt it wouldn’t.
As usual, both he and Nicky Hayden were saying they simply couldn’t get enough feel in the front end to trust the bike or make it turn. Hayden ran as high as fifth early on thanks to choosing the soft front tire – the only rider to do so – and it eventually deteriorated so badly he pitted toward the end of the race, then went out for a cautious final lap to catch the chequered flag.
Of the remaining three Ducatis, Hector Barbera crashed in the last corner of the final lap, and both Karel Abraham and Loris Capirossi retired with “technical issues.”
On the other hand, Suzuki personnel continued to be cheered by the improvement in the sole RSV-4 on the grid, young Spaniard Alvaro Bautista riding better and better. Qualifying ninth, finishing sixth, and looking to be riding harder than most in the tough technical sessions, definitely did Bautista’s reputation no harm at all.
The controversy about racing in Japan continues, some riders saying they are worried about radiation from the damaged nuclear plants – which are more than 100 km from the Motegi track. People who know about radiation say that the riders will get more on the flight to Japan than they’ll get even from standing around the reactors, let alone racing 100 km away – but who wants to listen to experts?
Valentino Rossi is becoming the head of the movement not to go, and paddock humour says it’s because it’ll be one less time he has to ride the unbelievably bad, and so far non-improving, Ducati.
Series standings after 12 of 18 races
1. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 243 points;
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 199;
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 174;
4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 130;
5. Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing, 125;
6. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 124;
7. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 105;
8. Colin Edwards, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 84;
9. Marco Simoncelli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 80;
10. Hiroshi Aoyama, Japan, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 77.
Next race San Marino GP, Misano, Italy, September 4th